Tag Archives: review

My DCP Review

31 May

This fairytale came to an awkward close. The princess didn’t get a knight, prince or court jester. She didn’t even get financial stability.

My second DCP did not come with a fruitful return, and thus, I’m leaving the Disney Company indefinitely. And that’s okay.

I spent the last five months of my life watching a major powerhouse completely restructure one of its assets. I saw budget cuts devastate full-time and part-time employees barely clearing 40 hours each week as they were only scheduled 30 or less. I heard about my CEO’s paycheck, the streamlining of positions to save a few more millions. We can’t say “Thanks, Shanghai” sardonicly without a bitter pang that there’s more to the story.

I spent the fall portion of my program furiously applying to Professional Internships, adjusting my resume and cover letter to meet every specification listed on an individual application. I took pride in graduating Summa cum laude, completing a Masters-level thesis project and having my stories mentioned and quoted by Washington Post and Sports Illustrated. Maybe I assumed too much, but I sent each application in with a sense of success and with the expectation of two phone interviews. After all, “if you can dream it, you can do it,” right?

Silence.

The four rejection emails I received were automated and cold, which is fair given the size of the Company. I’m assuming never hearing back from the other five applications were also rejections as well. What I didn’t expect was the brutal honesty from one of my meet-and-greets: the resume section is ALL automated unless a department wants it another way. Most departments don’t want to read through the hopes and dreams of applicants; it’s clearly easier to have a computer do the emotional bits. I bitterly laugh at the irony of computers weeding out candidates for writing internships. The most impassionate creations deftly scanning for “keywords” of writers who spend time crafting a variety of ways to express themselves.

It all felt, well, very non-Disney.

I doubt if Walt himself would be able to land a PI interview. After all, he could barely negotiate contracts. (Roy, on the other hand, would probably make it to the final round of a management internship.)

You can be angry at me for not playing the system. You can call me naïve for my bitterness. I’m nothing more than a stubborn millennial who doesn’t want to earn her keep, right? My 60-hour work weeks during holiday seasons, dealing with thousands of Guests each day, telling irate parents their child doesn’t meet a height requirement and getting screamed at — none of it will ever show enough commitment to this place for some people.

“That’s what you signed up for,” the voices echo. “You’re supposed to be nice. You knew what you were getting into.”

Well, yes and no. I love making magic. I love seeing a kid terrified of riding a ride come off triumphant and shouting “we have to do that again!” I love having families reunite at their favorite place if only to spend a few days together. Those moments are truly inspiring, and they are why I worked for Disney.

But since when does making magic and offering excellent customer service stay confined to one company? In the words of Dream Along with Mickey, why can’t I “take the dream with [me] wherever [I] go”?

I had the honor of meeting Marty Sklar –Walt Disney’s personal ghost writer– several months ago at a book signing. The experience itself was life-changing, and his book offered an unexpected glimpse into Imagineering.

The first half of Sklar’s book explores the 10 Commandments of Imagineering and creativity. The latter half consists of over 75 anecdotes from current and former Imagineers. Nearly all of them admits to having most experience outside of the Disney company. They do not speak highly of the opportunities for WDI interns –the most coveted professional internship within the Company. If anything, overzealous interns are criticized for entering into their dream job unwilling to adjust to outside input.

I spent time recently thinking up the Disney executives who left the company and returned to a higher position. The list was quite lengthy, and Lasseter’s existence on the list was enough to comfort me.

To my friends still in Orlando pursuing their professional dreams, good luck. I know a majority of you were left with the awkward silence after putting in full-time and part-time applications, even after going above and beyond in your work locations. I hope that answers come and bring favorable news when they do.

I love Disney, and that will never change. I still tirelessly follow the Disney Parks Blogs, Oh My Disney and DisneyStyle accounts for new information about the company. I will forever love the thrill of walking down Main Street USA and hearing the Dapper Dans serenade a new set of ears.

I’ll keep blogging remotely from wherever when announcements are made or whenever I have an Oh My Disney moment of inspiration.

But I can’t become so enraptured with the constantly-evolving magic that 20 years of my life passes and I’m stuck with piles of untried dreams under Four Keys Cards receipts.

Sometimes, the best stories are the ones where a lofty goal isn’t reached. The princess lands a fresh adventure and a quest begins anew.

 

Advertisements

‘Zootopia’ Review

4 Mar

Before seeing Zootopia: Disney, I can relate to bookish princesses, pixelated anti-heroes and even a tiny blue alien experiment. But how on earth can you make me sympathize with a rabbit in a weird cop outfit?

After seeing Zootopia: *wiping away tears* Disney, you did the thing.

The story begins with Judy Hopps (Once Upon a Time‘s Ginnifer Goodwin), a young bunny aspiring to go where nobunny has gone before — the police academy. Much to the chagrin of her parents, Judy becomes the first bunny officer thanks to the Mayor’s mammal initiative (think Affirmative Action). Judy gets assigned to the heart of the area, the thriving metropolis of Zootopia. However, upon arrival, Judy realizes she’s the only one fighting for her dreams.

Judy gets a chance to move from meter maid to true cop when a missing mammal case comes her way. She teams up with Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a con artist who lives up to the title ‘sly fox.’

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but with Jennifer Lee involved in the writing, there has to be a twist ending. This one isn’t as shocking as Hans’s betrayal of Anna, but it’s handled better by the protagonists than a simple *gasp! What are we to do?*

The humor surprised me most during the film. Sure, I’d seen the clip of Flash the Sloth in the DMV, the all-too-real commentary of how painfully slow government agencies can be. Maybe that’s where the humor gets its punch: as you laugh, you realize you’ve experienced the exact scenarios before and never in the best of situations. Early on, Judy’s parents attempt to simultaneously discourage and encourage their daughter to follow her dreams. “Settle! Settling isn’t so bad! Look at us, we settled!” Judy’s dad says. “Yeah, I settled hard,” responds her mother. One of the best moments is an incident with Chief Bogo (Idris Elba) where he tells Judy “This isn’t an animated fantasy where you sing a musical number and watch your problem dissolve into thin air. So, let. it. go.” My theater full of Cast Members guffawed at that point.

As with most Disney films, the true beauty lies in the message. “Zootopia” goes beyond a cute adaptation of “utopia” but ultimately looks to define “utopia” for an advanced society. Despite having evolved from their primitive states, the animals of Zootopia still expressed and experienced prejudices both outright and subtle.

In their attempts at crafting a modern utopia, Zootopia‘s writers offer more than a ‘lack of conflict’ definition. Their utopia becomes a moment where we recognize our own limitations, and in those limitations, we find unity. Once we realize the flaws of not only ourselves but how we categorize ourselves (predator/prey), the better we understand how to aid others. The representations of prejudice throughout the movie could be mix-and-matched with any contemporary issue.

How dare there be rabbits in the police academy? Females on the front lines of combat?

Don’t trust a fox (insert minority of choice here); they’re ruining Zootopia this country.

The movie leaves viewers with more than the high-flying adrenaline of Star Wars or the fuzzy warmth of Frozen (something Zootopia‘s writers poked fun at consistently). It gives a sense of urgency, a need to recognize our faults, and unite rather than continually degrade each other.

If you want your kid to be a better global citizen human being, take them to see Zootopia.

I give the film five pawcicles out of five. Zootopia hits theaters today, March 4.

 

Food and Wine Review Part Deux and the Cost of Eating Around the World

9 Oct

Thirty-eight booths comprise this year’s Food and Wine celebration, which means my first review barely scratches the surface of Epcot’s culinary offerings.

For those wishing to eat and drink around the world, I calculated how much it would be to eat one item and drink one beverage at each booth. The average cost of a food item is roughly $4.50 – $5, and drinks run a bit higher at $5.50 – $6. That last average obviously excludes the $10 martinis or margaritas (looking at you, Mexico pavilion). Averaging the cheapest estimates, the Around the World challenge costs roughly $380. Granted, I haven’t tracked my spending like I should, but this might be a good ballpark figure if you’re gung-ho about sampling a little bit of everything.

Here are more highlights from my third (and fourth and fifth) expeditions to the World Showcase:

-Pomegranate kir, France:  

 If you love sweet adult beverages, the pomegranate kir will satiate your taste buds. It’s sweet to the point of being sour (hello, pomegranate juice), but the tart flavor is cut by the champagne. I walked around the France pavilion feeling fancy with my flute and pretended I’d actually be able to afford a meal at Monsieur Paul’s one day.

-Grilled Bush Berry Shrimp, Australia:  

 While the lamb chop sounded divine, I couldn’t pass up the smell of the grilled shrimp. Well-seasoned shrimp lightly buttered and smothered in a sweet and sour sauce served on a bed of sugar snap peas and a little bit of pineapple. The colorful plate kept me satisfied yet not weighed down. I’d recommend pairing the shrimp with the Unoaked Chardonnay to cut some of the sweetness.

-Sweet Mango bubble tea, China: I love Bubble teas. I love mango. There’s literally no way I can’t not put this on the list. All ages can enjoy this non-alcoholic staple of the China pavilion. 

 
-Ravioli, Italy: It’s already a staple for Food and Wine and with good reason. The cheese blend inside the ravioli is sweet yet tangy. The tomato sauce isn’t too heavy or over-seasoned. I’m a big cheese fan, so the additional cheese topping the ravioli bake might be a bit much for some but I love it.  

-Haggis with neeps and tatties, Scotland: They finally did away with vegetarian haggis this year! The haggis was well-seasoned and tasted exactly like when I had it in the UK studying abroad. The rutabaga and mashed potatoes offset the savory with traditional UK “bland” palette cleansers, and overall, the dish tasted extremely comforting. Scottish comfort food is the best way for me to describe this one. Be brave and give it a try!

Y’all know I’m not done here. I convinced myself that if I walk around Future World enough before hitting World Showcase, the calories won’t affect me. A sequel to these reviews might entail my adventures in losing the Food and Wine weight, but it’s worth it.

Comment below with your favorite Epcot snacks from this year or years past!

“Into the Woods” Review – the Music of Sondheim, the body count of “Les Mis”

29 Dec

As an avowed lover of musical theatre, I wanted to love the film adaptation of Into the Woods. I convinced my dad to go with me for the promise of giants destroying a set, a sly wolf full of sexual innuendo, and the macabre humor associated with the brilliant Stephen Sondheim and lyricist James Lapine. Plus, with Rob Marshall at the helm (I adore the Oscar-winning film adaptation of Chicago), I entered the theater with confidence that I’d made the right decision.

I left feeling profoundly “meh.”

And he can sing? Perfect.

First, the bright spots: Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen were brilliant, and “Agony” was staged beautifully. Everyone in the theater laughed as Pine dramatically tore his shirt in (well) agony.

Anna Kendrick and Emily Blunt did well. Kendrick’s “On the Steps of the Palace” was a true show-stopper. However, the real star was Meryl Streep James Corden. Corden’s Baker had warmth, humor, and depth, which was a feat given the changes made to the Baker’s plot (as I’ll address later).

And then it crumbles. People normally fall into two camps when it comes to disliking this movie: 1) people who just don’t like Sondheim/don’t understand the music or 2) people who fell in love with the original show and are upset with the changes.

To the first group, do your research on his music. No, he’s not known for having a lot of “hummable,” Alan Menken-esque tunes you’ll be shower-singing for years to come. He writes for actors, and though his most popular songs can be challenging (like trying to figure out when to breathe in “Lament”), he wants to emphasize emotion over technical precision.

Also, he’s not safe for children. Even his lone-wolf comedy, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” is fraught with innuendo and outuendo. Sondheim’s “Assassins” gives voice to the attempted and successful assassinations of US Presidents throughout history, all told from the perspective of the killers. Woods is filled with adult themes, but most of it gets lost thanks to unexpected sanitation. Johnny Depp’s Wolf gets this gutting the most, a travesty for what is supposed to be a despicably perverted character. Maybe it’s paired with the fact that he’s supposed to sing opposite an adult Red Riding Hood, not Lilla Crawford’s spunky childlike demeanor. To make matters worse, Red Riding Hood was supposed to be played by Sophia Grace (the one of Ellen fame); thankfully, she left production a week in, and Crawford was cast. This leaves Depp’s Wolf to simply comes across as creepy, no stretch for the man who made his career off of just that.

To the second group, I feel your pain. **Spoilers ahead, so if you’ve seen the movie/musical, forge onward** Rob Marshall, SHAME ON YOU. You took out the most important piece of the puzzle: The Narrator. Sure, we still have a narrator (also James Corden), but we don’t have THE Narrator. Marshall successfully took the teeth right out of Sondheim’s most moving musical moment for the sake of what? Maintaining a PG rating? I was furious when the Narrator wasn’t revealed to be the Baker’s father who, fraught with guilt and tired of watching the characters suffer for his sins, convinces the Baker to take hold of his responsibilities (“No More”). “Into the Woods” is all about understanding that giants, princes and witches keep coming even after we find a happy ending. The Narrator lives with that knowledge longer than anyone in the show, and by ignoring his connection to the Baker, Marshall removes an important twist to the plot, and thus its morals.

Also, the point proved with both princes is that they never changed. In “Agony (Reprise),” the two reconvene to pursue other women who audiences find out are Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. Why change Rapunzel’s fate? While it’s minor, it still removes another opportunity for Pine and Magnussen to showcase their humor and deepen the heart of the movie.

Final verdict: If you’ve never seen “Into the Woods” and you enjoy musical theater, go see this movie. You will probably enjoy it. However, avoid it if you have small children because a) everything will go right over their heads and b) it’s downright sinister at times.

My biggest fear is that Marshall is creating a new set of viewers who will undoubtedly say “I like the movie so much more than the show” after seeing the movie first. It’s like those crazy people who don’t read a book before its movie adaptation. To those people (because I’m sure by now you exist somewhere), realize you’re loving the shadow of a show that held its own against “The Phantom of the Opera” at the 1988 Tony Awards. Shadows don’t satisfy. Man up, take the plunge, and go watch any staged version you want.

Did you love Into the Woods? Did you hate it? Sound off in the comments below! Bonus points for whoever identifies the “Wicked” reference made!

Not Needing to Save Mr. Banks: A Review

20 Dec

SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS. (When you don’t know what to say… But seeing as this is a movie review, I’ll do my utmost “to leaf through lengthy lexicons to find the perfect word.”)

Disney geeks (such as myself) will drool over John Lee Hancock’s Saving Mr. Banks. The story revolves around Mary Poppins author, PL Travers, and her life surrounding her decision to give Mary Poppins rights to Walt Disney for production.

The incomparable Tom Hanks IS Walt Disney. I wonder how many hours Hanks devoted to studying, analyzing, and observing archived footage of 1960’s Disney. He did a phenomenal job, getting every little detail that D23 members would catch. Hanks presents an amiable showman with a soft side, no doubt the result of watching personal interviews along with Disney’s TV spots from the 1950s and 1960s.

Emma Thompson is the real star of this movie, however. Thompson’s Travers had such emotional depth in a character written too snarky at times not to be a caricature. Thompson made sure to present the author in a well-rounded manner when going for the sass would’ve been an easier option, especially given the pendulum of emotions written for Travers. 

Like any Disney movie (especially the live-action films), it can get a bit cheesy and overworked. Flashbacks retell Travers’ childhood and what presumably led her to create her flying nanny. I’m sure her back-story was romanticized to boost conflict and move along what would normally be a droll plot. However, it’s Disney. It’s a live-action movie. Why would I expect it to NOT be romanticized?

What Disney fanatics will love are the subtle (and not-so-subtle) Easter eggs hidden throughout the movie. The slight animosity between the Sherman brothers. The posters of the Florida project on Disney’s office wall toward the end of the film. The fact that Disney’s real signature was used in the opening Disney logo. The faithful recreation of the Mary Poppins premier at the Chinese Theater. And if you’re a huge Disney buff, STAY FOR THE CREDITS. The real archived recordings of Travers’ interactions with the production staff are played. They are hysterical and you can see why Disney had his hands full with obtaining the rights from Travers.

The problem with these Disney nerd-moments is that Hancock assumes too much of his audience at times, hence some of the “preachy” and self-congratulatory moments mentioned by other (aka professional-people-who-watch-movies-for-a-living) reviewers. Hancock assumes that his audience understands the revolutionary ripples surrounding MP’s production. “Feed the Birds” was Walt’s favorite song. The film is dedicated to Diane Disney Miller, Walt’s eldest daughter, who died as production was wrapping up. The animatronic robin Mary Poppins holds in her hand near the Banks’s window was the first use of animatronics in a feature film. Mary Poppins was one of the final films Walt saw through to completion before his death. Hancock assumes his audience knows all of these little quirks and mistakenly presents an unfair fight that weakens Travers’ character.

Overall, the film was amazing. I’ll probably be seeing it again. It’s cheesy and heart-warming and sad and full of emotions that should be predictable for a live-action Disney movie. However, I still get bowled over anyway… It’s a great family film. Take the kids. Enjoy it, then go watch Mary Poppins immediately after. 

FROZEN Heats Up Box Office: The Review

28 Nov

Words fail me when I attempt to express how much I loved Frozen.

But let’s give this review a shot (unless I combust into happy/overwhelmed tears while writing this)…

Frozen is one of the best Disney films within the last decade. Recent years have seen an upswing in animation quality and production in Disney films, and I have no problem with saying Frozen is the finest product of this “return to the golden era” thus far.

Yup, that’s right. I said it. Frozen is better than Tangled. Sorry, not sorry.

One knowledgeable of the Disney studios might be a little hesitant about the film; it lacks some of Disney’s super-star players in the production. No Glen Keane. No Alan Menken or Randy Newman. Drop your fears at the theater door. Jennifer Lee (Wreck-It Ralph) and Chris Buck (Tarzan) did an amazing job. And with John Lasseter executive producing the film, this movie is in excellent hands.

The screen time between the sisters was balanced and the story was written in a way to make both female leads completely relatable. Kristen Bell’s comedic timing and vocal performance during the songs pleasantly surprised me. I knew she was talented, but her role as Anna blew me away. Idina Menzel’s Elsa was flawless and perfect (go figure), and Elsa is easily one of the most powerful characters Menzel has ever been.

Jonathan Groff’s Kristoff won over my heart. In an era of pretty-boy leads (I’m lookin’ at you, Flynn Rider), it was refreshing to see a character so “average” by Disney animation standards become a bit of a hero.

And can we just talk about the real winner among the vocal cast? JOSH GAD, YOU ADORABLE THING YOU. I feared Olaf might be overbearing or annoying (in a Jar-Jar Binks sort of way) but he was the right balance of comedy and concern.

Ultimately, the true selling point of the whole film was the story itself. Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck managed to convert a “princess movie” fairytale into something so much more than an adventurous romance. Scenes with Anna and Elsa caused me to reflect on my own relationship with my little sister. Flipping the traditional meaning of “true love” for something much more real was one of the most refreshing things I’ve seen from the Disney studios in a very long time.

Visually, the movie was stunning. For the haters of CGI: GET OVER YOURSELVES. The “Let it Go” scene just replaced the floating lanterns in Tangled as my second Most Beautiful Disney Moment (sorry, Frozen. You just can’t top the ballroom scene in Beauty and the Beast). I breathlessly watched the intricate snow and ice the entire movie. So gorgeous.

My only concern with the entire film was that it felt too short in some places. There were plenty of places throughout the film that I would’ve loved further explanation. Give me more time with Anna and Elsa as kids. More time seeing Elsa struggle with her powers. How did Kristoff get to the trolls as a kid? (Also, can Jonathan Groff have more of a song? And by “song,” I mean something longer than 50 seconds…)

MORAL OF THIS REVIEW: Well, I somehow managed to write this while listening to the soundtrack and not cry! Yay! I do, however, want to see this movie at least three more times while clutching the Sven stuffed plush sold at World of Disney… Do yourselves a favor and GO SEE FROZEN.

 

What are you still doing reading this?! GO. JUST GO.  “FROZEN” hit theaters today, Nov. 27. It is the 53rd animated feature from Walt Disney Studios.

Review of the “Frozen” Soundtrack

25 Nov

At the time I write this post, the Frozen soundtrack has been available for purchase some 11 hours and 45 minutes. In that time, I’ve purchased the deluxe edition, complete with demo recordings of songs, karaoke versions of “Let it Go,” and the orchestrations, and I HAVE LISTENED TO EVERYTHING.

So I don’t spoil the soundtrack for everyone, I’ll just briefly mention some of the highlights and themes:

– The opening number and orchestrations have a distinctly Nordic feel. “Frozen Heart” as an opening song reminds me of “Fathoms Below” from The Little Mermaid. It both sets the movie and preps the subsequent score.

– THERE IS NO LOVE BALLAD. Initially, I didn’t know how I felt about this. There isn’t a single love ballad on the soundtrack. “BUT LOVE BALLADS ARE DISTINCTLY DISNEY!!!” you cry. To some extent, yes, traditional princess movies have always had that love ballad because they’ve centered on a romantic relationship. Just imagine the volumes that speaks to the film that they didn’t include a love ballad. Sure, there are two cutesy, up-beat songs between Anna and Hans and another with the ensemble cast regarding Kristoff, but that’s it. It’s refreshing to finally see a princess movie come out of the Walt Disney Animation Studios NOT about romance. Frozen will truly be something completely new.

– Jonathan Groff gets one 50 second song on the entire album. I’m quite depressed about that.

– JOSH GAD. You’re adorable and amazing and your performance of Olaf’s “In Summer” will be hilarious to see.

– “Fixer Upper” might make one of the most profound statements of any Disney “love song” in recent years… Or ever. When you have that one person who understands you better than anyone, who loves you for you, you shouldn’t care about their appearances or trying to fix their quirks. Such a change of pace for Disney. Me gusta.

– Thematically, “Let it Go” will be underlying current for the movie. It’s serving in the same capacity “Part of Your World” did in The Little Mermaid or “Circle of Life” in The Lion King. No complaints here. It’s artfully woven throughout the score.

– As if Idina Menzel couldn’t get any more perfect… And I was pleasantly surprised by Kristen Bell’s voice.

– All of the songs are really friggin high. Elsa might have the widest range of any Disney princess in history. As an alto, trying to sing along with the karaoke versions of the songs is a joke… Sigh. I’ll just stick to belting out “Part of Your World” in the shower…

– There isn’t a villains song. No “Be Prepared,” “Mother Knows Best,” or anything like that. Who will come out of left field as the villain? Should the villain have a song? Do they need it? Would it detract from the central conflict between the two sisters to have a third party enter the game? I guess we’ll find out on Wednesday…

Frozen hits theaters on Wednesday, Nov. 27. Rotten Tomatoes currently lists the film at 91 percent out of 100 after the first wave of critics reviews. Will you be going to see the film this holiday week?